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Interim Director at the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) appointed

This interim appointment has been made in response to Sir Martin Harris informing Government of the necessity for him to stand down due to the…

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This interim appointment has been made in response to Sir Martin Harris informing Government of the necessity for him to stand down due to the need to undergo surgery for a serious medical condition.

Sir Graeme will take over full responsibilities of the Director of Fair Access including responsibility for 2012-13 access agreements from 28 May 2011 on a three month interim contract.

From September 2012 no institution will be able to charge more than £6,000 without an approved access agreement from OFFA. Sir Graeme will work to the more challenging and demanding guidance issued by ministers to the Director, and reflected in the Director’s guidance to universities in February. This places significantly increased expectations on universities and colleges in respect of fair access and widening participation, focusing more sharply on the outcomes of outreach and other activities, and accompanied by stretching measures and targets.

Dr Cable said:

“Sir Martin has successfully established the role of Director for Fair Access and in doing so has promoted fair access within every university. His contribution to widening participation and helping drive social mobility in this country should not be underestimated. I wish him and his family all the very best at this challenging time.

“The priority now for OFFA remains the same - to ensure that access agreements are carefully scrutinised to ensure those institutions wishing to charge more than £6,000 meet the necessary requirements.

“The temporary three month appointment of Sir Graeme, who brings with him a wealth of experience gained from Vice Chancellor roles and other posts in the HE sector, will ensure continuity. Sir Graeme is exceptionally well qualified to take OFFA forward through this crucial period.”

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“Martin Harris is widely respected and he has made a key contribution to HE over the years. It is a great pity that he has to stand down suddenly but we fully understand the pressing personal reasons which make it necessary. We are grateful that Sir Graeme Davies will be able to step into the breach: he has the expertise to carry OFFA forward in the coming months.”

Sir Graeme said:

“I am personally committed to fair access as of critical importance. Over the next few months OFFA faces a key task to ensure that the new Access Agreements conform to the challenging guidance set out by Sir Martin Harris. I am looking forward to working with universities and colleges to ensure they make real progress on improving access in higher education.”

Sir Martin said:

“Clearly, I regret being out of action at this important juncture but I heartily welcome Sir Graeme Davies as my replacement. I’ve worked with Graeme on many projects over more than 20 years and have complete confidence in his ability to hit the ground running.”

Sir Martin’s term as Director was scheduled to end later this year and it is the Government’s intention to recruit a new Director once the future role of OFFA has been discussed as part of the forthcoming Higher Education White Paper. In recruiting a new Director the Government will be seeking a wide range of candidates from across the higher education sector and beyond.

BIS is providing OFFA with additional resources to ensure that they can fulfil their responsibilities over the coming period.

Notes to editors:

  1. The position of Director is a statutory appointee (under section 31 of and Schedule 5 to the Higher Education Act 2004).

  2. The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent, non departmental public body. Their role is to promote and safeguard fair access to higher education for lower income and other under-represented groups following the introduction of higher tuition fees in 2006-07. The principal mechanism for achieving this is by approving and monitoring ‘access agreements’. All English universities and colleges that want to charge above the basic level must have an ‘access agreement’ approved by the Director of Fair Access.

  3. Sir Martin Harris published OFFA’s strengthened Access Agreement requirements on 8 March 2011. The guidance outlines:

  • There will be an increased focus on outcomes;
  • Universities have to show real progress against their agreed measures and targets;
  • Including doing more to reduce the number of students who drop out;
  • The Director will set the highest expectations for investment in access measures from universities who have the furthest to go against agreed benchmarks; and
  • That Access Agreements will be reviewed annually instead of the previous 5-year approval cycle.
  1. On the 10 February the Business Secretary and Universities and Science Minister wrote to the Director of Fair Access setting the Governments expectations about how new Access Agreements for higher education institutions should be assessed.

  2. This set out significantly increased expectations for the priority that institutions should be giving to fair access and widening participation, focusing more sharply on the outcomes of outreach and other activities, and less on the inputs and processes. In particular the government highlighted that progress over the last few years in securing fair access to the most selective universities has been inadequate, and that much more determined action now needs to be taken. A copy of the Written Ministerial Statement can be found at

  3. Sir Graeme is Emeritus Vice-Chancellor, University of London. He was the University’s Vice-Chancellor from 2003-2010, having previously served as vice-chancellor at the universities of Glasgow (1995-2003) and Liverpool (1986-91). He was Chief Executive successively of the Universities Funding Council (1991-93), the Polytechnics & Colleges Funding Council (1992-93) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (1992-95).

Sir Graeme is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Honorary Graduate of the Universities of Liverpool, Strathclyde, Manchester Metropolitan, Nottingham and Edinburgh, and an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College of Music. He received a knighthood in 1996 for services to higher education.

Sir Graeme graduated BE, PhD from the University of Auckland and MA, ScD from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.

  1. These interim arrangements have been approved by the Commissioner for Public Appointments, Sir David Normington. More information about the work of the Commissioner is available at

  2. BIS’ online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See for more information.

Notes to Editors

Contact Information

Name BIS Press Office Job Title

Division COI Phone




Name Michael Gibbs Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Phone 020 7215 1635 Fax



Published 28 May 2011